HAVE WE ALL BEEN TYPE-CAST IN THE GREAT AMERICAN LIFE?

I flew to Sacramento for a law firm job interview. I walked into the office lobby, and the senior partner appeared on a balcony above me. I knew from the partner’s facial expression when she looked at me there was no way in hell I’d be hired. I don’t know what she expected, but it wasn’t me.

After I was lead to her office, she asked me the weirdest question I have ever been asked in a job interview: “Do you think a man like you can work for a woman like me?” It was the first question asked, and I had no idea what she meant or how to respond. Potential replies raced through my mind, but I needed some answers from her before I could respond: What kind of a woman was she? What kind of man did she think I was?

Since the goal of a job interview is to get a job, and at the time I needed a job, I didn’t say what I was thinking which was, “What the fuck do you mean?” I knew before she asked the question I wasn’t getting the job but still mumbled something about how I was certain I could work for her.

It was a Sacramento law firm that did political/governmental law and lobbying, and needed someone who could do some press work. She read my resume and called me and asked if I would come to Sacramento. She seemed impressed by my bio, and I thought the job sounded like a good fit. I bought a new suit, paid for a fresh haircut, and she sprung for my airfare.

I admit I will never — at least in this universe — be model for GQ Magazine or even Car and Driver. While I was a writer/editor at San Diego Magazine, whenever they needed someone to model who remotely looked like a criminal, commercial fisherman, or truck driver, I was usually recruited. Once I was used as a stand-in for Santa Claus (even though at the time I was 30 pounds lighter than I am now), but if Santa is anything, he is blue collar. I mean, the guy can build anything.

I also confess, since beginning working for money above the table I have worked as a deckhand, window washer, construction worker, carpenter, avionics technician, plumber, burglar alarm repairman. (My wife made me quit that one because after the police allegedly checked out a burglary at the old Campus drive in theatre in San Diego I was confronted by an actual burglar who waived a long metal object, which appeared to be a knife, at me and announced his intention to kill me. I told him he should leave quickly because the police were coming. He turned around and ran. I. Guess he thought I was a fellow criminal. At another alarm, a policeman pulled his gun, pointed it at me, and commanded I halt and lay down in front of my truck, which had the San Diego Alarm logo printed on its side — the same logo that was on my work shirt.)

But, again, I digress. I also have been public relations writer, technical writer, magazine writer/editor, and both a criminal defense and civil attorney. I have never been a criminal that I recall.

But for some reason, people insist on stereotyping me. I call it “Castingism”. Once, while working as a deputy public defender, a young colleague approached me and asked to view my tattoos. When I told him I had none, he was shocked. He had thought I was a reformed outlaw biker.

My wife worked at the public defender’s office before I did. One Saturday we happened to encounter one of her colleagues and she introduced me.

He returned in shock to the office and announced, “Julie is married to a biker guy.”

Now, while I have owned a motorcycle or two (actually six), my background qualifies me to be more of a nerd than biker. I’ve worked as an electronics technician in avionics, as a technical writer, am a Phi Beta Kappa, and a graduate of a reasonably good law school. I have even been to Comic Con.

I once, for a short time, worked for a large cosmopolitan law firm where the managing partner said to me, “You know, Mike, you look just like a client I had once, a trucker who bought a suit and got a haircut for court. He looked like a truck driver who just bought a new suit and got a hair cut.”

The problem is people watch too much television and have seen too many movies where all plumbers show plumber’s crack when they bend over, most criminals look mean, a disproportionate number of suspects on cop shows are minorities, blondes are ditzy, redheads are fiery, Irish are drunks, surfers are spaced-out potheads, Black people are sidekicks to White people, and all fathers are blowhards like Homer Simpson.

It is as though casting directors for a television reality show called Life in America have chosen only male medical doctors who are incredibly thin and handsome, if not a little androgynous, female doctors who are beautiful but seem a little promiscuous and are so thin they appear to have eating disorders.

The legal shows are usually the same — beautiful lawyers unless, of course, they are criminal defense lawyers who appear sneaky enough to “get people off on mere technicalities.” The police all have college degrees, speak three languages, and are dedicated public servants, even though real police officers have IQs in the average range and more than a few police departments refuse to hire applicants with above-average intelligence. (There are exceptions. It’s my understanding Southern California departments do not turn down applicants who are extra bright.)

Life in America would be perfectly scripted. Plumbers would be showing their cracks, construction workers would harass young females who are just strolling past, powerful women would be beautiful, thin bitches, and everybody would seem to date everyone else.

Shakespeare said art imitates life. That may have been true in Elizabethan England, but in 21st Century America it’s the opposite: Life imitates art.

While statistics vary, most say Americans watch television six hours a day and spend another three to six hours a day watching taped shows. In short they either work or sleep or watch television. These estimates are probably on the low side because, according to the Nielsen ratings folks, people underestimate the time they spend watching television. There are not enough hours in a day, and something has to give. it’s usually sleep, which is probably why everyone seems sleep deprived, and may explain the rise in the number of Zombie movies.

It leaves four hours for the rest of living — things like sleeping, getting dressed, driving to and from work, cleaning house, shopping, paying bills, and the myriad other chores people perform. That doesn’t leave much time to spend with family and friends. In fact one book, Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam, says television has decimated organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Shriners, and bowling leagues. It appears people are too busy watching television to join a club.

Teenagers watch the least amount of television, and people over 65 watch the most, probably because teens have homework and spend time hanging with friends, and old folks like me live off Social Security and retirement income that often punishes them for working part-time, we usually don’t have homework, and instead of hanging out we go to bed early. When people ask me what I do for living, I tell them I get paid to get up in the morning. In truth, my hips, back, and various other health issues prevent me from doing much else. I usually have three to four doctor appointments a week.

What amazes me, however, is that people actually develop pseudo-friendships with television characters. People seem to love and anticipate “reunion” shows where characters from previously cancelled programs have a get together showing how the characters aged with time. Viewers act as though they are attending a reunion of old friends and become part of the television show

Since I grew up without a television, and my wife and I didn’t have one for six years, many old shows most people see as repeats, I will see for the first time.

Please excuse me. Gilligan’s Island is on.

Do they ever get off that damn island?

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